February 4, 2016
When proponents of the unaffordable tax cuts start talking about why Kansas’ job growth hasn’t taken off, it seems there is a different reason every time. The latest explanation offered for Kansas’ anemic job growth: Kansas’ low unemployment rate. Apparently, if fewer people are looking for jobs, then job growth will slow down. But, like the other reasons given for the tax plans failure to stimulate the economy, it doesn’t add up.
An analysis of other states with lower unemployment rates than Kansas shows that this is false. In fact, of the eleven states with a lower or similar unemployment rate, most beat Kansas in job growth, whether you count total jobs or only private sector jobs.
What’s more, all but two of these states started with lower unemployment rates than Kansas over the same 36-month span – meaning they had even less slack in their labor market.
Kansas’ current low unemployment rate is not unprecedented either – it could be possible that low unemployment does equate to less robust job growth in the state. So, let’s go back to the 36-month span between January 1997 and December 1999, where the unemployment rate was similar to the present – even slightly lower. This means we should expect even lower job growth than the present period.
What we see is the complete opposite of the story currently being told about Kansas’ slow job growth: the growth in total and private sector jobs during the late 1990s is double that of what we’re seeing today.
Also, we’ve previously noted that Kansas’ unemployment rate isn’t really much to brag about as we’ve been lower than the nation and on par with our neighbors for the past 25 years.
Instead of generating new reasons to try and explain away the tax cuts’ failure to boost job growth, Kansans need to see solutions that address the stagnant economy. When Kansas last enjoyed a low unemployment rate and high private job growth, the state was making investments in the things that are proven to create a solid base for job growth – schools, safe and healthy communities, roads – and that keep and attract people and businesses to the Sunflower State.